N. Korea wants more control over farming amid food shortage

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to strengthen state control over agriculture and make all available efforts to increase grain production, as the country faces a worsening food shortage

Hyung-Jin Kim,Kim Tong-Hyung
Thursday 02 March 2023 01:14 GMT

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to strengthen state control over agriculture and make all available efforts to increase grain production, state media reported, as the country faces a worsening food shortage.

The prospect for an early resolution of its food insecurity is still dim, as North Korea restricts the operation of markets and devotes much of its scarce resources to its nuclear program. While experts believe the food situation is the worst it has been under Kim's rule, they still say they see no signs of imminent famine or mass deaths.

During a recent four-day ruling Workers’ Party meeting, Kim said his government sees agricultural development as a matter of “strategic” importance and that farming goals should be settled without fail, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

“In order to attain the gigantic long-term objective of rural development, it is necessary to decisively strengthen the party guidance over the agricultural sector and improve the rural party work,” Kim was quoted as saying.

He said that all state sectors and units must provide “mental and moral, material and technical support and assistance to the rural communities," saying that should be “a trend of the whole society."

Kim also ordered officials to overcome unspecified “lopsidedness in the guidance on farming” and concentrate on increasing farm yields. He said provincial, city and county authorities must boost their guidance on agriculture.

KCNA didn’t elaborate how Kim wants to reinforce and improve his government’s control over agriculture.

But experts have said North Korean authorities’ attempts to supply grain via state-run facilities and restrict private dealings at markets was considered one of the reasons behind the worsened food situation. Others include decreased personal incomes, pandemic-related border curbs that blocked unofficial rice purchases from China and the overall economic difficulties deepened by mismanagement, COVID-19 and international sanctions.

North Korea’s grain production last year was estimated at 4.5 million tons, a 3.8% drop from a year earlier, according to South Korean assessments. In the previous decade, its annual production was an estimated 4.4 million to 4.8 million tons. South Korea’s spy agency has said North Korea needs 5.5 million tons of grain to feed its 25 million people each year.

“It is difficult to be optimistic about the food supply as long as Pyongyang insists on implementing North Korean style socialism and isolating the country from international trade and assistance while developing nuclear missiles,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said.

Holding a ruling party’s Central Committee meeting focused on agriculture — while previous plenary meetings mostly concentrated on the country's nuclear program or rivalries with the United States and South Korea — could be an acknowledgement the food situation is serious. But some experts say the country also likely aims to burnish Kim’s image as a leader caring for his people and boost domestic support of his push to expand his nuclear arsenal.

Kim also called for faster construction of new irrigation systems that would help the country cope with extreme weather conditions brought by climate change. He also called for machinery manufacturers to build and supply more efficient farming machines and for workers to accelerate their efforts to reclaim tidelines to expand farming.

According to KCNA, Kim praised the plenary meeting for producing more definite proposals that would put agriculture on a “stable and sustained development track" and accelerate overall prosperity. But the account did not give further specifics.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in